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KNOXVILLE — Governor-elect Bill Haslam told University of Tennessee, Knoxville, graduates at today’s fall commencement ceremony that they had a lot in common: both are embarking on a tremendous new challenge.

“And the real work begins now,” he said.

Haslam, who was elected governor on Nov. 2 and officially takes office on Jan. 15, 2011, likened his two-year gubernatorial campaign to the graduates’ college years. He said he gave about 2,000 campaign speeches while the graduates listened to about 2,000 lectures. And, he joked, while he drove 120,000 miles on the campaign trail, the graduates “drove about the same amount of miles looking for a parking place” on campus.

As governor, Haslam said his challenges will include finding a way to run the state in a tight economy, growing jobs for Tennesseans and trying to increase the value of education in a state that ranks 42nd on national educational assessments and where only about 22 percent of Tennessee adults over the age of 25 have a bachelor’s degree.

“And you enter one of the most difficult job markets in history,” he told the graduates.

Haslam offered the graduates six pieces of advice based on what he’s learned in the 30 years since his college graduation.

First, he said, “be a great listener.”

“I made better grades in college than in high school,” he said, “because I moved from the back row to the front row.”

Second, he said, keep learning.

“The most interesting, challenging people I know have committed to being life-long learners.”

Third, he said, “be a person of grace.”

Haslam said a friend once told him that “everyone walks with a limp, and too many people spend their time trying to figure out what makes other people limp.”

It’s more productive, he said, to accept the challenges that come your way and be cognizant that others are facing their own challenges.

Fourth, he said, “be a person of humility.”

“There are two kinds of people,” he said. “The first walks into a room and says, ‘Here I am.’ The other walks in and says, ‘Here you are.'”

He cautioned against being the type of person who has “to be the bride at every wedding and corpse at every funeral.”

Fifth, he said, “learn to deal with disappointment without bitterness.”

He reminded the graduates that Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team and the Beatles were rejected by a record label early in their career — yet both persevered to become among the greatest in their fields.

“Your dreams will be broken as many times as they’re realized,” he said.

Finally, Haslam said, “work really, really hard.”

“The truth for both of us is it’s game-on,” he said.

Whether you’ve been elected governor and have graduated from college, you’ve likely had a lot of support from a lot of people

“All of them have handed us the baton and said, ‘You go now.'”

Haslam thanked UT system Interim President Jan Simek for his “sacrifice and commitment” to the university. He also thanked UT Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek for his work and told UT system President-elect Joe DiPietro that he looked forward to working with him.

Haslam concluded by encouraging the new UT graduates to give back to society through their careers and through public service.

“As your governor, I say be a great ambassador for this university and for our state across the nation.”

More than 2,900 students were eligible to participate in today’s commencement which combined graduates from the summer and fall terms. The graduate and undergraduate ceremonies can be viewed in an archived webcast at http://www.utk.edu/commencement/fall10/.

Also during today’s commencement, six students received commissions as second lieutenants in the U.S. Army. They were commissioned by Brig. Gen. Robin Akin, the first former UT female cadet to receive the rank of brigadier general.

On Friday, students receiving advanced degrees were recognized in a graduate hooding ceremony. There were 490 receiving master’s degrees, three receiving specialists in education and 69 receiving doctorate degrees.

C O N T A C T :

Amy Blakely (865-974-5034 or 865-789-1692, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu)

Beth Gladden (865-974-9008, bgladden@utk.edu)